Encounter Books Crosses Times Off Mailing List

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Encounter Books, the conservative publishing house run by Roger Kimball, will no longer send review copies to the New York Times. In an amusing and much-discussed item posted to the company’s Encounter Intelligence Web log, Mr. Kimball explained that the Times has “studiously” ignored almost all of his titles, and so if it plans to review any in the future, it will have to buy them like any other reader.

In a phone interview with The New York Sun, Mr. Kimball said he doesn’t think his decision will jeopardize the financial health of his company; if anything, it might serve as a “wake-up call” to Times Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus, whom Mr. Kimball describes as a “moderate left-wing opportunist” responsible for perpetuating the “travesty” that has become of a once justly celebrated organ of cultural criticism. The Times is now a clearinghouse of “press releases emanating from the p.c. seats of established opinion” and “metrosexual lifestyle stuff,” Mr. Kimball said. (Mr. Tanenhaus did not return The Sun’s phone call for comment.)

When he was named the editor of the Times Book Review in 2004, many believed that Mr. Tanenhaus would be sympathetic to the intellectual right, Mr. Kimball noted, citing Mr. Tanenhaus’s well-received biography of Whittaker Chambers. And yet, throughout his tenure as the head of the Sunday books section, Mr. Kimball charged, Mr. Tanenhaus has assigned those few conservative books the paper has covered to reviewers who seem to have their own axes to grind, and who appear to have little interest in giving the books an objective reading.

“It’s not that the reviews are critical,” Mr. Kimball said. “It’s that they’re sophomoric and uninformed” and seldom rise above the level of the “ideological hatchet-job.” His indictment is not confined to the Times’s poor track record with respect to Encounter. How does the “intellectual lilliputian” Walter Kirn, Mr. Kimball asked, become the logical choice for addressing political philosopher Harvey Mansfield’s “Manliness,” put out by Yale University Press? And if porn stars Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson can be the glad recipients of Times notices, what will it take for Canadian columnist Mark Steyn to have his bestselling polemic “America Alone” (2006) acknowledged, even in a sidebar?

Not all of Mr. Kimball’s associates, colleagues, and collaborators are with him on this crusade. The historian of American Communism and the radical left, Ron Radosh, an Encounter author, responded to the PR fatwa on the Times on Mr. Kimball’s Web log, which is hosted on Pajamas Media. Mr. Radosh pointed out that Fred Siegel’s biography of Rudolph Giuliani, “The Prince of the City,” published by Encounter, got a major front page review that, although “somewhat critical,” was still a sign of respect that “obviously helped alert readers to the existence of Encounter Books, as a publishing arm that has to be taken seriously.”

But Mr. Kimball said he believes the Times’s reign as the kingmaker of commercially viable authors is drawing to an end, assuming it has not already reached it. In the announcement, he wrote that “the real impetus in selling books has decisively shifted away from legacy outlets like The New York Times towards the pluralistic universe of talk radio and the ‘blogosphere.’ That is why Encounter can see its books on the Times’s bestseller list without ever making it into the paper’s review columns.”

Indeed, two Encounter books have recently made the Times’s extended best-seller list: “Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor,” by Roy Spencer, and “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad,” by Andrew C. McCarthy. Neither has been reviewed in the paper.

Then again, Mr. Kimball suggested, that might not mean much. “What the book review doesn’t review could fill a book,” he said.

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